Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 34, Issue 12, pp 1518–1522 | Cite as

Pathogen-induced Release of Plant Allomone Manipulates Vector Insect Behavior

  • Christoph J. Mayer
  • Andreas Vilcinskas
  • Jürgen Gross


Infochemicals mediate communication within and between different trophic levels. In this study, we identified a new type of plant allomone induced by a plant pathogen and perceived by its vector insect Cacopsylla picta. This phloem-feeding psyllid is the main vector of Candidatus Phytoplasma mali, a cell wall-lacking bacterium that causes the so-called apple proliferation disease. In a previous study, we showed that newly emerged females of C. picta were attracted by the odor of phytoplasma-infected apple plants (Malus domestica), which release ß-caryophyllene in contrast to uninfected plants. Here, the attractiveness of this sesquiterpene for C. picta was confirmed in both olfactometer bioassays and field studies. Synthetic ß-caryophyllene was highly attractive to newly emerged adults of C. picta both when offered simultaneously with healthy apple odor and without. The psyllid’s response was independent of its odor experience and infection status. These results confirm our previously established hypothesis that this phytoplasma manipulates the behavior of its vector insect by changing the odor blend of its host plant. Deployed in apple orchards, sticky traps baited with ß-caryophyllene dispensers caught both males and females of C. picta. Consequently, this new type of infochemical, i.e., a phytopathogen-induced plant allomone, represents a promising compound to develop innovative techniques for monitoring or maybe even mass trapping of C. picta.


Apple proliferation Vector–plant–pathogen interaction ß-caryophyllene Candidatus Phytoplasma mali Cacopsylla picta Malus domestica 



This work was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG GR 2645/1,2). J.G. is grateful to the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft for additional funding (innovative research award). We thank Jürgen Just and Kai Lukat for excellent technical assistance and Eva Gross for linguistic improvements.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph J. Mayer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andreas Vilcinskas
    • 1
  • Jürgen Gross
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Phytopathology and Applied ZoologyJustus-Liebig UniversityGießenGermany
  2. 2.Julius Kuehn Institute—Federal Research Centre for Cultivated PlantsInstitute for Plant Protection in Fruit Crops and ViticultureDossenheimGermany

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